Donald Trump Is Not “Pro-Life!” 

In case you’re thinking about voting for trump because he’s pro-life,  think again. Despite his 11th hour “conversion” to pro-life talking points,  he is certainly the most pro-death candidate in the race.

I’m not the first to make this point. Matthew Lee Anderson at Mere Orthodoxy makes this point very well from a consevative perspective, Rachel Held Evans makes it from a progressive perspective, and Shannon Dingle has made it well from a largely non political perspective. 

Hillary Clinton, Jill Stein, and Gary Johnson all oppose increasing restrictions on abortion. They’re “Pro-Choice” as the terms go.

Clinton has repeatedly said that while she does not want to ban abortions, she wants to make them rare, largely through education and contraceptive access that will prevent unwanted pregnancies, and also through an increased social safety net.

Donald Trump has shared the same pro-choice opinion for his entire career, until he realized he needed evangelical votes to win. Since then he’s “seen the light” and worked in some anti-abortion talking points. Few people believe he’s actually going to follow through on any of it.

The American Solidarity Party is strongly pro-life, but they aren’t on many states’ ballots.

The Lancet and the Guttmacher Institute have both found that, worldwide, abortion rates don’t go down when the penalties for abortion go up. 

Instead, the lowest abortion rates are present when a greater social safety net takes away the “desperation abortion,” and where contraception and education about contraception is freely and easily available.

Think about it:  prohibition didn’t work on alcohol in the 1920’s. The drug war hasn’t settled people from doing drugs,  and gun bans don’t stop criminals from getting weapons,  even when the whole country bans them (Mexico, for example). 

Back alley abortions are extremely easy to do, much easier than constructing or smuggling an illegal gun, or even making meth.

A lot of people present the typical abortion as involving some self-involved, cosmopolitan, well-off woman who just can’t be bothered to fit a baby into her busy social schedule, or who doesn’t want to lose her tight abs and gain post-pregnancy stretch marks.

That’s a great talking point for the Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akins of the world, but that’s really all it is. Abortions mostly happen because women are struggling just to survive (and take care of any kids they already have), and don’t think they can take care of another child. In fact, according to The Lancet, married women are the most likely to get an abortion.

Increasing the social safety net takes away that fear factor, and abortion rates adjust downward, naturally. Providing easier access to contraception also reduces abortion, so the Hobby Lobby’s of the world’s can’t really call themselves pro life in any meaningful way. 

During Reagan and Bush 1’s Presidencies, abortion rates began to fall. During Clinton’s presidency, they fell rapidly. During Bush 2’s Presidency, the abortion rate fell, but more slowly. During the Obama Presidency, the abortion rate fell 13%, a faster fall than under any of the Republican Presidents.

So while the abortion rates have been falling overall, there’s no reason to believe they’d fall faster under Trump than under Clinton, and some small evidence to believe the reverse might be true.

So that leads us to other aspects of being “pro-life.”

I mean, if you only care about abortion rates, you’re not really pro-life, just anti-abortion. And what good is that, really?

  • Clinton is certainly less likely to get us into another ground war. To be sure, she’ll use air power liberally (no pun intended), and kill far more people than I’d find acceptable, but Trump will almost certainly do much, much worse things.
  • A former CIA diector has labeled Trump a threat to national security
  • Clinton is less likely to tear families apart through bigoted and impractical mass deportation scenarios (Muslims, Mexicans, or whoever Trump names off next).
  • Oh, and speaking of worse things: Clinton is against torture, while Trump has advocated torturing and killing the families of suspected terrorists. This is unspeakably evil, a literal crime against humanity.
  • Clinton is far more likely to reform our justice system, bringing some reduction in the number of people killed by police and the outrageous percentage of our population that we keep incarcerated (more than any other sizable country, by a huge margin).
  • Clinton is more likely to support policies that will support families and mothers, like paid maternal leave, widespread health insurance, and social safety nets for economically disadvantaged mothers-to-be.
  • Clinton pushed for CHIP, a program that has provided medical care for huge numbers of otherwise uninsured children over the last 19 years.
  • Trump has been accused of sexual assault by several women, and his hateful misogyny is clear. I don’t know if this matters to the pro-life crusaders,  but it matters to me. 

    I’d be remiss if I didn’t add that some of the third party candidates might be just as pro-life or more so. Stein and Johnson are much more dovish than Clinton. The American Solidarity Party is dovish, pro-safety net,  and anti-abortion in every way. They are also anti-LGBT+ rights and borderline theocratic, so your mileage may vary.

    At any rate, none of them have a viable chance in November.  They didn’t even meet the threshold to be included in the debates. 

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote third-party. Just be realistic about the outcome. 

    Trump or Clinton will be our next President. 

    As far as lives lost and destroyed go, I think there’s really no question. Fewer people – born and unborn alike – will be killed, maimed, and tortured under a Clinton Presidency than under a Trump Presidency. Bottom line.

    And that means Hillary Clinton is as close to pro-life as we’re gonna get this year. 

    Theory Thursday: Creeds and Beliefs

     https://youtu.be/H-61MaWETiU

     I’m talking about my beliefs, my creed, so to speak. In the “re-boot” post, I talked about how my theological beliefs had settled down a bit since the last period of blog activity (2012-2013), but I didn’t go into much detail, and may have been a bit a bit vague or confusing.

    First, let me get the question of orthodoxy out of the way. I affirm the Apostle’s Creed every Sunday in church, and I mean every word.

    I believe that Jesus was so much more than just an example for us … but that we cannot ignore his example. And in many ways, I spent most of my life ignoring his example.

    Jesus taught peace, yet I found a way to justify every single war the U.S. had ever gotten into. 

    Jesus crossed social boundaries and embraced the poor, the outcasts of society, and those believed to be sinners, yet I found a way to stay safe in my own middle-class moral superiority. I let myself believe that we’d somehow all started from the same place.

    Jesus always spoke up to the powerful for the sake of those who were weaker, poorer, considered sinners, or socially ‘underneath.’

    Yet time and again, I’d side with the powerful, the privileged,  because I’m one of them … white,  male,  heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied Christian.

    America wss quite literally made for my kind. 

    And I know I won’t ever understand how it is to be black or gay or trans or  female … But at least I can be aware of that. At least I can listen. 

    At least I can try to follow the Jesus of the Gospels.

    The Good Samaritan and GSM (LGBT+)

    Let me state by saying that I do not believe that we can truly love somebody while considering that person to be fundamentally broken, flawed, bent, abominable, while comparing that person’s very existence to something like adultery or demanding that the person be celibate because of their very nature.

    In short, you cannot love somebody while declaring their nature to be evil and classifying any love or intimacy they may feel as an evil on the level of infidelity or thievery or perversion.

    In short, you cannot love someone who is a gender or sexual minority in the way that Jesus calls his people to love unless you accept that person as they are, and accept that person’s love and relationships.

    I have seen the damage that this approach has gone, especially to people who were raised in the church. The damage that is done to a child by being told again and again that they are fundamentally broken, that any romantic relationship that they may have feel is a simple abomination – that the image is incalculable, and can and does lead to suicide again and again.

    Time and again, Jesus said that we must judge a tree by its fruit. Suicide, pain, alienation, and depression are not good fruit. They are a bitter, bloody harvest that we bear responsibility for.

    Any doctrine that leads to death of children and teens cannot be of God.

    I don’t want to sound as if I’m condemning Christians who try to love people while maintaining their sincerely held moral objections, because that is often a step on the path. I know I had to get there before I could get here. But I don’t want to give the impression that I think that this is anywhere to end up. This is a baby step. This is milk, and we Christians are called upon to grow up, eat adult food, and put aside childish things.

    Rachel Held Evans gave a good illustration of this by pointing out that in Jesus’s parable of the good Samaritan, it was not the Samaritan who needed help, who needed somebody to be God’s hands to him. Instead, the Samaritan, who was a member of a group that good observing Jews of the time would consider heretical and immoral, this Samaritan was the one who acted as a good neighbor to the injured man, who was in this context Jewish. It was the outsider, the one who was looked down upon, who was the hands of God to the man after the priest and the Levites passed by and did nothing.

    This is a revolutionary concept, but I wanted to publicly put my name on this belief because I don’t want there to be any confusion among anyone who may have read anything else I’ve written as to where I stand. As believers, we don’t need to welcome anyone in just so we can change them. We don’t even need to welcome them just so that we can love them and be Jesus to them. We need to recognize that they may be the hands of God to us, that we may learn from them, grow because of them, or be rescued through them.

     

    Deserve Part Three: A Warning Against Premature Worthiness

    ​In my last post, I talked about how I never stepped up and earned any writing skill and success,  never really took chances or dedicated myself back when I was younger and it was easier. 

    Ironically, this may be for the best, because everything I wrote before about 2012 I find embarrassing, even negative. And I don’t mean in the open “oh well, I wasn’t writing very good prose back then was I?” way. I mean in the “wow, I’m I’m a different person and I disagree with most of the presuppositions and general underlying themes of those pieces of writing” way.

    I was still caught up in the myth of redemptive violence, like most Americans. I operated under assumptions that seem harmful and unChristlike to me now. 

    I still wrote without any real diversity of casts,  and worse, without any real understanding. 

    So, I’m rather glad  in a twisted way that I never really pulled the trigger before, because my past works (especially if they were successful) would feel like enemies to me. 

    Now since they just live on the corners of my hard drive, they’re little more than remembrances of where I was. But if they were out there on Amazon and in bookstores, I would be at war written the works of my own hands.

    So that’s where I stand and it’s not so bad as I thought. But it’s not a good place to end up. I have to write more and I have to write more things that I’m proud of and that I think are good – not just “well done” but good in the greater sense.

    “Deserve” Has Everything to Do With It

    A while back I talked about how “deserve has nothing to do with it.” Now I want to talk about the opposite. Sometimes, deserve has everything to do with it.

    For those of us who were born in relative privilege, we have to deserve the things that we get and that we go for.

    We may be handed a lot, being born in a country that’s not war-torn, that has clean water, that has vaccinations. But there are things we have to earn.

    I was reading an Onion article called, “find the thing you love most, and do it on nights and weekends for the rest of your life.” I have to admit I found it pretty depressing. 

    But when I look back at when I was younger and had more time and opportunity, I see that I never really took advantage of it.

    I never really pursued being a writer when I was young and had the relative freedom to do that. I certainly never pushed myself, writing hard and really studying to improve my skills, when I was young and had so much more time than I do now.

    In short, I didn’t deserve to succeed. I didn’t deserve to be a writer.

    What that means now is that if I ever want to have even some sideline success with this, is that now I’m going to have to earn it when it’s harder.

    I wasted my playthrough on the “easy setting” and now I’m going to slightly harder setting … still not anywhere near the hardest setting … but slightly harder than before. 

    And so now I’m going to have to prove that I want this more and then I’m willing to be more disciplined than I was as a young man, and do this while still keeping up my work and family responsibilities, even though it’s harder now than it was before.

    And I have to be more disciplined and more dedicated than I’ve ever been before. Which is a pretty low bar to leap.

    “Deserve” Has Nothing to Do with It

    ​https://youtu.be/dpDkYZWeeVg

    It’s easy to talk about our accomplishments

    It’s easy to talk about what we’ve done

    What we’ve built

    And look down from our safe, high places

    And say to those below, 

    “If I did it,  you can do it!  

    Don’t be so lazy!  

    Pull yourselves up! 

    Don’t ask for a handout!  

    Nobody helped me up! ”

    When we know that last one is manifestly untrue. 

    Did I build the roads that carried my mother to the hospital where I wss born? 

    Did I build the hospital?

    Did I make the water clean, the mosquitos relatively disease free, the food plentiful and the land peaceful? 

    Did even my parents build all that? 

    Did I chose my nation,  my parents wisely, as I was waiting to be born? 

    No. I did not. And neither did you.

    Ripples (Words and Actions Have Consequences)

    ​https://youtu.be/1VR3Av9qfZc

    Sometimes we aim to misbehave

    Most often, we don’t aim at all

    In an intricately interconnected world

    Our actions and inactions have meaning

    Beyond our circle of friends
    Beyond our monkeysphere 

    Beyond our field of vision

    We dance on spider’s silk

    Intricately interwoven

    Each step sets the strings vibrating

    For good or for ill

    For ourselves and for those a world away

    Myths of violence prime our minds for war

    Spinning up from children’s cartoons

    To novels and political speeches

    Desensitizing, Dehumanizing

    One American life is worth

    How many Pakistanis? 
    How many Afghans?

    How many?

    Chocolate grown by slaves tastes sweet,  but not to them 

    Clothes, Coffee, Rice, Diamonds, Gold

    Products of foced labor, by children

    So many things it’s hard to know where to start

    None of us is pure.

    I doubt we can be in a world like this.

    Where powerful interests throw their rocks and hide their hands 

    What can we do?

    I’m no expert, but I have a few ideas.

    Ironically, the first comes from Ayn Rand: Call evil “evil.”

    Don’t give your silent sanction to things you oppose

    Don’t give unspoken approval to things that appall you.

    The second is simpler, but requires some self discipline

    Pick a few things that are products of slavery,

    And stop buying them.

    Buy more clothes second-hand, if you can.

    If you’re 6’7″ like me, that may not be possible.

    Find something you can do, even if it’s small.

    Only buy chocolate that’s ethically sourced.

    Change where your money goes.

    The third is simpler yet: spread the word

    Sign petitions. Write your congress people

    Post to social media. 

    Get the word out, to people who matter.

    Praise President Obama and the responsible legislators of both parties for tightening restrictions

    For keeping dozens of slavery products out of the US  

    Even if you don’t like their other policies

    Fourth, if you are a writer or content creator

    Be sure that what you create reflects your heart

    Every work has a message

    Every work shows and tells how it’s world works, 

    How things get better or worse, 

    What brings happiness and justice

    Money? “Winning” the sexy love interest?  

    Outwitting a nagging wife? 

    Killing or beating up the right bad guys? 

    Every story tells a story… or it wouldn’t be a story. 

    Pure entertainment doesn’t exist

    Truth and Lies: The (Dis)Honesty Project

    ​https://youtu.be/Ql4tRBlQIoU

    If you haven’t watched this documentary,  your should.  It’s on Netflix, and it’s a great introduction into the field of behavioral economics, the science of lying,  and the costs associated with lying and cheating. 

    It basically alternates between Dr. Dan Ariely and his co-researchers explaining what their experiments have shown,  and people who’ve been caught lying or cheating telling their stories, including what was going through their minds when they were doing it. 

    It’s amazing to see how things like transactional distance make people more likely to cheat, but being reminded of an ethics system (even one from a religion you actively don’t believe in)  makes people less likely to cheat.

    Give it a watch some time.  

    Black and White

    Becoming vegan was surprisingly easy. It was definitely low-risk.
    Not like protesting in the streets.
    It’s not going to get me fired, arrested, or shot
    (Although as a 41 year old white man, that last one is pretty unlikely)

    And I don’t know what to do about that.
    I’m not willing to get fired, arrested, or shot.
    (However unlikely that last one is)
    I have a daughter to protect and provide for.
    I have a wife I don’t want to leave.
    And honestly, I don’t want to suffer.

    So what can I do? What will I do?

    We don’t live in a just world. Let’s put aside the shades of gray for just a minute and try to see the world in black and white:

    Black people are far more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for selling drugs, even though white people are more likely to actually sell drugs

    Black people are incarcerated at six times the rate of white people

    Black college students have the same rate of getting jobs as white high-school dropouts.

    Black men with no criminal records have the same rate of getting hired as white men fresh out of prison. It seems people expect black men to have criminal backgrounds.

    Black people have been killed by police at over twice the rate of white people in 2015 and 2016 so far.
    12% of the US Population, but 27% of the dead
    306 out of 1146 killed in 2015
    136 out of 561 killed in 2016
    That’s almost a hundred people of all races, and 25 black people a month.
    That’s almost three people a day, with a black person being killed almost every day.

    If you’re wondering why your Facebook feed won’t stop blowing up with videos and reports of black men being shot down, it’s because it’s happening almost every day.

    Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were just two more in a long list of black lives cut down violently.

    …Now, back to the shades of gray …

    I’m still not willing to get fired, arrested, or shot.
    But I’m willing to put my voice out there.
    I’m willing to keep talking and writing about it
    I’m willing to sign petitions
    I’m willing to write to my various elected officials
    I’m willing to consider this the most pressing issue our country is facing, and vote accordingly (even if I’m voting for someone I otherwise don’t like)

    I’m willing to LISTEN to people who have LIVED this experience
    I’m willing to admit that I’ll only ever know ABOUT these things, that I won’t ever KNOW them.

    I’m willing to admit that I DON’T and CAN’T have the answers to these ongoing atrocities, and to LISTEN to black voices as they speak up:

    • Campaign Zero has outlined extensive, comprehensive solutions that address the problems of police militarization, community distrust, and disproportionate impact on the black community from a number of angles.
    • The black police union in St. Louis have started something powerful. They’ve released a 112 page report of what’s wrong with their department, and they’re calling on their chief to quit. This is a radical and almost unprecedented action, breaking the “blue wall” that shelters violent police officers and penalizes police who speak out. If other police groups join in, this could be the start of real and lasting change.
    • Also, be sure to pray for Officer Nakia Jones, who just called out the police responsible for Alton Sterling’s shooting. Pray that she isn’t harassed, doxxed, fired, assaulted, or worse.

    I’m willing to admit how privileged I am to be in a position where I can choose to play it safe, and admit that it’s because I’m white.

    I’m willing to say “Black Lives Matter.”

    Because black people aren’t safe. And too many people treat them like they don’t matter.

    And I’m willing to say their names, or at least a few of their names:
    Alton Sterling
    Philando Castile
    Eric Garner
    Sandra Bland
    Tamir Rice
    John Crawford III
    Freddie Gray

    And hundreds more.

    Nobody Is Pure: Aligning My Actions with My Ethics

    How do you live completely harm-free in a world as complex and interconnected as ours?

    You don’t.

    Even if you focus on present, ongoing harm and ignore past historical harms – a completely arbitrary decision – you still can’t find or fix everything.

    We pay taxes to a government that does a host of bad things (anyone reading this, regardless of political leanings, can probably agree to that). Christians have instructions from the Master Himself to do so (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” – Mark 12:17). We all have a gun literally pointed at our heads to make us pay.

    We can’t even know the origins of all the things we put on or into our bodies or our vehicles.

    What do we do? Well, we can vote, if we can find someone worth voting for. We can sign petitions and write letters to our representatives in state, local, and national government. We can protest and make our voices known.

    And we can educate ourselves on the issues.

    But is that enough? My taxes are still paying for drone strikes against civilians, and indefinite detention without trial (both happening on the CIA’s word, with nominal executive oversight and no due process), and so are yours, if you live in the U.S.

    “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10 KJV)

    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back. It doesn’t mean we can’t find one little corner of our lives and push back against the cruelty, violence, and exploitation that have been baked into our governmental and economic systems, and the deception that hides them.

    It just means that nobody, vegan, vegetarian, meat-eater, tax-dodge, pacifist, or soldier, can ever fully claim the moral high ground.

    I know I surely can’t.

    And I know that when I try to, I can end up hurting people I never intended to.

    A wise long-term vegan told me that you can only go where your consciousness leads you. And that we should not be “holier than thou” with people whose consciousness (and consciences) aren’t leading them the same direction ours are.

    And experience leads me to understand that nobody can care about everything at once. A single human being just doesn’t have the energy.

    So, I’ll say this. Try some vegan dishes – some are very yummy – and see if you’d like to add them to your weekly meal rotation.
    But beyond that, whatever your conscience is leading you to care about, care deeply, and act wisely.

    And if I ever start acting holier-than-thou, let me know.